Our passage to King Cove had seen fog, strong winds, light winds, sun, a big volcano, islands, birds, and whales—a wonderful 75 miles! The sea and air were pretty calm as we watched the whales breach in Deer Passage, but then as we turned the corner into King Cove itself the wind began to strengthen, and right from the direction in which we were headed.
This was yet another of the “bays and passes” mentioned on the NOAA weather radio where a north wind will get up a lot of force even when things are relatively calm in the more open ocean. We’d already experienced this on our 3-day passage to Sand Point, when 40kt winds would suddenly clock over 50 in certain places. The weather was better down by King Cove, but the wind was still funneling between the mountains and sometimes coming in fierce gusts. So we had this one last challenge to overcome before we could rest in King Cove prior to the final push to the Aleutian Islands.
King Cove has another beautiful new fishing boat basin, just like Sand Point but smaller. Seth and I were both worried about docking, though, because the wind would either push us hard into a slip or hard away from it depending on which one we took. We were hoping the wind would lessen towards the head of the bay where the basin was located, but no such luck. But, the docks turned out to be very widely spaced—the engineers must have taken the usual weather here into consideration—and they were also pretty empty.
Since there were so many empty spaces, we (obviously) decided on being pushed away from the slip (i.e. pointing into the wind on our way in). It was actually a pretty simple operation (much easier than getting out of the tightly-spaced docks in Whittier in similar winds), and we soon had Celeste made fast and shipshape.
While we were still coiling down lines, we were hailed by a young woman on the deck of a fishing boat in the next slip over. She wanted to know where we’d come from and all the usual questions, and after some struggle of politeness on both sides (each of us asking the other to drinks on our own boats) we ended up on the fishing boat.
The boat was a gill-netter that deployed her net from the stern, and she was being manned by her owner and his niece. They had just come back from fishing Bristol Bay, the shallow body of water to the north of the Peninsula (the easternmost part of the Bering Sea), and were on their way home to Cook Inlet (where Homer and Anchorage are located and where we’d seen the belugas on our car trip). They were actually planning to leave that night and make a direct passage.
The owner, Francisco, told us that he was the only Mexican-American in Alaska to own his own fishing boat (that he knew of) and we heard all about how fishing works in Alaska: the licenses, the “open days” that Fish and Game announce depending on fish count estimates, the prime fishing grounds, how licenses get passed on in people’s wills, how people take out loans to buy licenses, which areas he has licenses for, current prices for various salmon species and other fish, etc. His niece owned some valuable shares in the halibut fishery and was part Aleut Native, so gradually the conversation got around to how the Native Corporations work. We also talked a lot of boat shop, as always tends to happen, and we ended up having dinner on board (some amazing chicken fajitas) and talking well into the night. One of us eventually looked at the clock and saw it was almost 1AM, an hour after Francisco had meant to set out! Everyone had been having so much fun and talking so much that no one had noticed! So we said goodbye, exchanged contact info and promised to stay in touch, and waved them off. King Cove, a place we’d had no expectations for, was already turning out to be one of our favorite ports!